Bihada Ichizoku is, sadly, a show that most people never watched. I remedied my ignorance over the Christmas holiday. These 12 8-minute episodes follow the two Bihada sisters, a family that “battles for beauty,” as they become rivals for the most beautiful skin in the world. Yes, I swear that is the premise, and I also swear it is perfectly executed and hysterical. The show was created to promote skin care products. The show is a near-perfect riff on all things shojo from the 70s; from the character designs to the expressions to the desperate seriousness of it all. Sara acquires a mysterious benefactor, who leaves her a random assortment of objects such as purple sweet potatoes, and teaches her the ways of skin care in order to defeat her sister in the final battle! There is hardship, death, doomed love, and so much more; Bihada Ichizoku plays it straight and entertains amazingly well. And at this length you can shoot through the whole show in less than 2 hours!
I decided to delve back into the work of Kill em’ all Tomino with the first 15 episodes of Aura Battler Dunbine. This story does not start with much foreplay in the regular world before throwing the protagonists, Shou Zama, in the magical world of Byston Well. Byston Well is a medieval fantasy land with insect like mecha called Aura Battlers. Shou finds himself pressed into the army of Duke Drake who plans to rule the world with an elite fighting force of pilots from Earth. Apparently people from Earth have massive amounts of spiritual power in Byston Well and can power up any device they control exponentially. After a few battles Shou find himself fighting on the side of the rebels. The fact that he is keen of the red-headed Marvel Frozen who is also part of the resistance is no small part of his decision. This feels very much like a Tomino work despite its fantasy setting. You will notice a very standard Tomino style of pacing and characterization for better and for worse. So far Shou is a solid lead with a good mixture of knowing when to be aggressive and when to be passive in his personality as opposed to other Tomino leads. Neal Given has really only gotten on my nerves so far and I am still undecided on Marvel. All the villains so far are pretty despicable and we don’t really have a gray Char like character so far. So far Garalia is the most over manipulative and the top insanely evil character but Shot Weapon looks like he is saving his full crazy for a later date. I am curious to see how the Tomino does his version of Escaflowne over a decade before Escaflowne.
Finally had a chance to watch Gundam Unicorn ep. 2 and following in the footsteps of the first installment, it didn’t disappoint. As hotly anticipated, a familiar face (or should I say mask) appears and it is unclear whether he is the real thing or not. He has the attitude, the fighting capability, and the mindset of Char. My opinion is to believe he is indeed the true Char, but I truly don’t think it will ever be revealed one way or the other (unless he decides to tell a story about how awesome Char is); it stays more exciting and interesting not knowing. Seeing him back in action was fun (gotta get me a Sinanju model kit!) and of course he shows these kids a thing or two. Another series of great battles in this episode with stunning visuals as Banagher gets more acclimated to the Unicorn. The conflict is really starting to boil so I’m looking forward to more in the, regrettably short, series.
Since they were on sale I decided to finally buy the 4 chapters that make up Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. I started with Meakashi-hen or the Eye Opening Chapter. It is a retelling of the second story if Higurashi now from Shion’s perspective where we learn what actually happened during the Cotton Drifting Chapter. So far while all the visual novels have proved to be more in-depth than the anime or manga they have spun off this is the first chapter that is hands down infinitely better. Shion is just a deeper and more engaging character in original. We spend much longer with her in the beginning of the story so she is far more sympathetic than she was in the anime. We also get a clearer sense of the whole Shion/Mion relationship dynamic which helps with the end of the chapter. Her relationship with Satoshi is expanded upon so when things start to go wrong we get a clearer sense of how and why she slowly goes mad and that she had been in a downward spiral for some time before the whole doll incident. When when everything falls parts we empathize with Shion but still realize she is still quite evil. I also found it interesting that we got our first solid mention of Hanyuu even if the audience at the time would have missed it. Just a huge improvement on every level. I do miss the little comedy cast ensemble pieces where the characters discuss the chapter and give you hints for dissecting the mystery. They were always very amusing. Instead Ryukishi07 gives his thoughts on chapter which are insights into the story but I would have liked some crazy antics on the side as well. This was a real treat and is making me look forward to the other solution chapters.
Finished up Legend of Legendary Heroes, a show that I held out hope for but was let down. The entire show teeters on the edge of good but never makes it over the hump. The mishmash of characters and relationships swings the gamut from engaging to utterly annoying. Ryner and Feris’s interactions get better as the series progresses; though Shion remains the most dynamic character of the bunch, they drop the ball with him nearing the end. As Ryner’s past is revealed more it starts to get a bit contrived. Not only does he have a bevy of childhood friends, everyone in the show has super tragic pasts with the meanest people in the lands. Also for a guy who can copy magic, Ryner’s repertoire is sadly bland as he only uses a handful of spells the entire show. The plot has many pitfalls including a completely nonsense ending and few explanations to go along with any of it. Legend of Legendary Heroes was a fantasy show with potential that never comes through.
I knew that Mirai Nikki OVA was going to be a test for how people would react to a full length Mirai Nikki TV series but I did not expect it to be nothing more substantial than a really long trailer. It introduces you to the bare-bones plot and quickly rattles off all the key players and then teases you for a real first episode. Despite an introduction to many key points there is never the weight or feel of a full episode. It reminds me of X: An Omen in that respect. If you are curious about the series it is worth watching but it is nothing to go out of your way to import. Your better off just waiting for the actual TV series and then watching the first episode.
Sorry, not too much Bihada Ichizoku fan-art out there, so I’m going with Gundam Unicorn!